Why the time is now to modernize development on the Mainframe

A Playbook for Modernizing the Mainframe, Part 1

Earlier this year, my colleague Sreenivasan Rajagopal blogged on “Cloud comes to Mainframe,” highlighting the incredible opportunities for mainframe if businesses could manage the platform with the same agility as the typical “cloud experience.” This vision resonates incredibly well with my engineering team and our ongoing work to design a DevOps solution for our customers, which happens to be another popular topic that also brings the promise of greater business agility.

Our goal is to bring both the cloud experience and DevOps to mainframe, and to revolutionize how the mainframe is experienced by professionals working in Development and Operations. I am incredibly excited to be sharing the journey of our team, so stay tuned over the coming months as we reveal piece by piece the playbook to modernize development on mainframe.

Voice of the Customer

All great design begins with the voice of the customer. Our customers told us they had three key objectives when enabling modernization:

  • Make mainframe development attractive for the new generation of developers: Many organizations are facing a generational shift in their workforce – mainframe experts are retiring, ceding responsibility over mission-essential applications to a new generation of developers. These new developers have limited interest in becoming experts on the mainframe, and are even less inclined to adopt historical practices established by their predecessors.Insight: Businesses must therefore rethink application development for mainframe.


  • Make mainframe development a part of the enterprise DevOps initiative: Line of business teams who are increasingly adopting DevOps principles are struggling to integrate mainframe development into their existing delivery pipeline, leaving mainframe development as a critical bottleneck.Insight: Businesses must therefore reconfigure their DevOps toolchains to support mainframe applications.


  • Make nearly ‘zero touch’ and ‘zero cost’ development/test environments on the mainframe: Creating dev/test environments is a complex, time-consuming process requiring dedicated support from IT operations. Not surprisingly, development teams are often reluctant to tear down such environments, even when they are no longer needed. The extra cost that results from maintaining these environments creates considerable friction between development and operations, inhibiting progress towards a more unified organization characteristic of DevOps.Insight: Businesses must therefore address the time and resource for provisioning dev/test environments.

Bring Joy to Key Stakeholders

Successfully modernizing development on mainframe also requires buy-in from three key personas in any organization – the modern developer, the DevOps architect and the IT Operations executive:

  • The modern developer is the new generation of mainframe back-end and line of business developers updating back-end applications running on mainframe. Those developers can either work on a legacy back-end (COBOL, PL1, Assembler) or a modernized back-end (Java, Node.js). They want to see mainframe as any other development platform and would rather not learn about its specificities. Moreover, they want to keep using their existing best in class development tools on their desktop.Modern developers will buy in if they have flexibility in the choice of their development tools and easy interactions with mainframe from their desktop without requiring advanced mainframe skills.


  • The DevOps architect is responsible for the automation of the team’s release pipeline and supporting an agile delivery methodology. This includes using tools to automate workflows across both distributed and mainframe systems, overcoming any obstacles imposed by the mainframe. The DevOps architect collaborates with his application developers to gather and embed scripts into popular continuous integration and continuous delivery software, preferring open source tools such as Jenkins and TeamCity. He appreciates how these tools can be used to standardize and streamline the teams’ processes, while also facilitating the approvals needed to push code changes from staging to QA to production.DevOps architects will buy in if they can easily create and automate a delivery pipeline to support an enterprise-wide DevOps implementation that leverages industry standard tools, including open source.


  • The IT Ops executive is responsible for the support of development teams, providing SLAs for their requests on the mainframe environment while also looking to optimize its cost. The IT Ops executive seeks to reduce the amount of support required for development while improving on SLA management.IT Ops executives buy in when Operations is freed from supporting development teams, focusing instead on optimizing and maintaining production environments. Greater autonomy for Development without the risk of impacting product environments is highly appealing, and can be realized with capabilities such as self-service provisioning of dev/test environments and automated DevOps tools integrated cross-platform, inclusive of mainframe.


Watch the Dream Unfold

At CA World this November, I will be presenting the CA Technologies vision that will realize modernized development on mainframe. In the meantime, catch the rest of the Playbook below.


Jean Louis Vignaud
Jean-Louis has been in product management roles for more than 15 years, starting as product…


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